Post-partum Depression is often misunderstood and confused with the “baby blues.” The maternity blues is a fairly common, and transient, experience that occurs within the first ten days of giving birth. It is mostly attributed to hormonal fluctuations and will stabilize within about a ten day period. Post-partum depression (PD), however, does not have these attributes. It often develops somewhat slowly and “under the radar.” A smaller percentage of women within the population will experience PD. It can begin as early as two weeks post-partum and as late as a year. The good news is that if a woman seeks help sooner rather than later, PD can usually be confined to the first year. Unfortunately many women ignore their symptoms or feel guilt or fear in seeking the help that can bring healing. Untreated symptoms allows the depression to stick around beyond the first post-partum year and have negative effects to mom, baby, and the family.
Some of the symptoms of PD will obviously overlap with other types of depression including (but not limited to): worry, tearfulness, irritability, sadness, guilt, lethargy, and appetite changes. Some nuances specific to PD are inability to cope with the new baby and extra anxiety about the baby. One theory concerning the onset of PD takes into account our more isolated and individualized Western culture which does not lend itself toward much social support. New mothers without partners, family, or involved friends might feel the weight of parenthood in a more negative and isolated way. Another more common risk factor is the heaviness of expectations that the mother has for herself, or that others around her have for her. These expectations for what a mother should be and/or feel can wreak havoc on a new parent seeking to do the best they can in the situation they may be in.
If one has concerns that they might be experiencing post-partum depression, I would encourage you to seek help immediately in order to address it before it becomes a more severe issue. There are many avenues for mitigating the effects of PD and moving beyond it. There is hope for an efficient and effective recovery for mom, infant, and family.